Przhevalskii, Nikolai Mikhailovich

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Przheval’skii, Nikolai Mikhailovich


Born Mar. 31 (Apr. 12), 1839, in the village of Kimborovo, Smolensk Province, now Pochinok Raion, Smolensk Oblast; died Oct. 20 (Nov. 1), 1888, in Karakol, now Przheval’sk, Kirghiz SSR. Russian geographer and explorer of Central Asia. Major general (from 1886). Honorary member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (from 1878). Son of a small landowner.

In 1855, Przheval’skii graduated from the Gymnasium in Smolensk and entered military service. He was made an officer in 1856 and in 1863 he graduated from the Academy of the General Staff. From 1864 to 1867 he taught geography and history and was a librarian at the Warsaw Junker School. In 1866, Przheval’skii was attached to the General Staff and was appointed to the Siberian Military District. In early 1867 he arrived in St. Petersburg, where he met P. P. Semenov (Semenov-Tian-Shanskii), who assisted in the organization of Przheval’skii’s expeditions.

Przheval’skii made expeditions to Ussuri region in 1867–69 and to Mongolia, China, and Tibet in 1870–73; for the last expedition he received the Great Constantine Medal, the highest award of the Russian Geographic Society. The second Central Asian expedition (to Lob Nor and the Dzungarian Plain) took place in 1876–77. A third expedition to Central Asia (the first Tibetan expedition) was made in 1879–80, and a fourth (the second Tibetan expedition) in 1883–85. V. I. Roborovskii and P. K. Kozlov were Przheval’skii’s assistants on the fourth expedition. Przheval’skii’s expeditions covered a total of more than 30,000 km. At the beginning of his fifth journey, Przheval’skii died. His grave and a museum dedicated to him are located near Przheval’sk, not far from Issyk-Kul’.

The scientific results of the expeditions were set forth by Przheval’skii in a number of books, which provide a clear picture of the natural features and characteristics of the relief, climate, rivers, lakes, flora, and fauna of the regions explored. Przheval’skii determined the direction of the principal mountain ranges of Central Asia and discovered a number of new ranges. He defined more precisely the northern limits of the Tibetan Highlands and described Lake Lob Nor. During the expeditions extensive zoological, botanical, and mineralogical collections were gathered. The zoological collection included more than 7,500 specimens of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Przheval’skii discovered and described a wild camel, a wild horse (Przhevalski’s horse), and other species of vertebrates. The botanical collection consisted of a herbarium containing 15,000 to 16,000 plant specimens, numbering 1,700 species, of which 218 new species and seven genera were described by botanists for the first time.

In honor of Przheval’skii, the Russian Geographic Society in 1891 established a silver medal and a prize in his name. In 1946, the society established the Przheval’skii Gold Medal. Przheval’skii’s name has been given to a city, a mountain range in the Kunlun system, a glacier in the Altai, and other geographical objects and to a number of plant and animal species.

Monuments in honor of Przheval’skii have been erected at his grave near Issyk-Kul’ and in Leningrad.


Puteshestvie v Ussuriiskom krae 1867–1869 gg. St. Petersburg, 1870. Republished, Moscow, 1947.
Mongoliia istrana tangutov: Trekhletnee puteshestvie v Vostochnoi nagornoi Azii, vols. 1–2. St. Petersburg, 1875–76: Republished, Moscow, 1946.
Ot Kul’dzhi za Tian’-Shan’ i na Lobnor. Moscow, 1878. Republished, Moscow, 1947.
Iz Zaisana cherez Khami v Tibet i na verkhov’ia Zheltoi reki. St. Petersburg, 1883. Republished, Moscow, 1948.
Ot Kiakhty na istoki Zheltoi reki: Issledovanie severnoi okrainy Tibeta i put’cherez Lobnor po basseinu Tarima. St. Petersburg, 1888. Republished, Moscow, 1948.


Kozlov, P. K. Velikii russkiiputeshestvennik N. M. Przheval’skii. Leningrad, 1929.
Karataev, N. M. Nikolai Mikhailovich Przheval’skii—pervyi issledovatel’ prirody Tsentral’noi Azii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1948.
Anuchin, D. N. “N. M. Przheval’skii.” In his book O liudiakh russkoi nauki i kul’tury [2nd ed.] Moscow, 1952.
Murzaev, E. M. N. M. Przheval’skii [2nd ed.] Moscow, 1953.
Gavrilenko, V. M. Russkii puteshestvennik N. M. Przheval’skii. Moscow, 1974.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.